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Leviathan field reserves 20% smaller than reported

Former environmental protection minister accuses Energy Ministry of concealing information from public, government

An aerial view of an Israeli offshore gas rig (Albatross Aerial photography/Noble Energy/Flash90/File)
An aerial view of an Israeli offshore gas rig (Albatross Aerial photography/Noble Energy/Flash90/File)

The Energy Ministry has confirmed that the Leviathan offshore field has 20 percent less gas than previously reported.

The ministry on Thursday said there were 500 billion cubic meters of gas in the reserve, while earlier estimates had placed it at 620 billion cubic meters. The figure was published in a report approving the fast-tracked development of Leviathan.

The partnership — Avner Oil and Gas (22.67%), Delek Drilling (22.67%), Ratio Oil Exploration (15%) and Noble Energy (39.66%) — rejected the findings, according to Hebrew media reports.

Former environmental protection minister Avi Gabbay (Kulanu), who resigned two weeks ago in protest of the coalition deal with Yisrael Beytenu, on Saturday accused the ministry of deliberately withholding the information from the cabinet and the public.

“It turns out that for two years the ministry knew and concealed [the information] that there was 20% less than what was reported to the cabinet and public,” he wrote on Facebook. “This means that the decision on dividing the gas between domestic use (and reserves for Israel) and exports was based on an incorrect fact, and the ‘hundreds of billions’ [of cubic meters of gas] are not really waiting for us.

Environment Protection Minister Avi Gabbay (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
Environment Protection Minister Avi Gabbay (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

“It’s no longer a matter of right and left, those in favor and those against the [gas] deal, but rather it’s about how the government handles matters,” Gabbay added.

In May, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz announced that the government had drafted a new clause in its high-stakes gas deal with two energy companies struck down in March by the High Court of Justice. The new draft deal allows future governments to amend the natural gas agreement should they find it necessary.

The new draft came in response to a High Court of Justice ruling in March that a controversial deal to extract natural gas from massive offshore fields would be canceled within a year unless the stability clause, which barred future governments from altering the agreement, were changed.

The ruling put a major damper on efforts by the state to approve the agreement with an Israeli-US consortium and override opposition by the state regulator, putting the brakes on a deal touted by the government as having the potential to bring hundreds of millions into state coffers and transform the country into a regional energy powerhouse.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made the gas deal a centerpiece of his agenda, saying the discovery of large reserves would bring energy self-sufficiency and billions of dollars in tax revenues. But critics said the deal gave excessively favorable terms to the government’s corporate partners.

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